The Dairy Council for Northern Ireland (DCNI) has said the dairy industry in Northern Ireland is the cornerstone of the economy, supporting more than 3,000 farm families plus thousands of additional processing jobs.
It has stressed that there will be catastrophic consequences for farming and the wider economy if the dairy industry is not insulated from the Covid-19 outbreak.
Protect the industry
The CEO of DCNI, Dr Mike Johnston, outlined that the dairy industry needs to be looked at in the same light as the healthcare and energy sectors in terms of critical importance to the economy.
He added that enormous efforts are being made by the country’s processors to ensure that milk continues to be collected from farms each day for processing and distribution to customers.
Dr Johnston has warned that unless all supports are given to the dairy industry, then farmers and processors alike are facing a challenging future.
“The spread of COVID19 is the single biggest threat to the Northern Ireland dairy industry and the wider society in several generations.
“If milk is not collected, then farmers only have one option, dump that milk.”
“Processors are pulling out all the stops and have taken it upon themselves to inform their farmers and hauliers on how best to halt the spread of COVD19 so milk can be collected and processed each day.”
“Milk is a product that is taken from farms today and ends on kitchen tables tomorrow – it is a key component of a natural and healthy diet. Our supply chain is robust, yet so delicate, that at this time of the year when milk production is approaching its peak, resources are stretched to the full.”
“Anything that causes a hiccup in our supply chain could lead to less product being available to the consumers of Northern Ireland.”
Calling on the government
The DCNI urged the UK Government and the NI Executive to work hand–in–hand with the food industry to understand and to be proactive on the COVID19 crisis.
The DCNI has asked for a number of critical measures to be put in place:
- For the Government to give the dairy sector every possible support on an ongoing basis;
- For the Government to give protection to enable healthy staff to report to work daily in a safe manner;
- All unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape for processors, hauliers and farmers to be eliminated to keep the wheels of business turning;
- There must seamless movement of milk across the island of Ireland.
“Dairy processors have gone to great lengths to ensure the dairy sector keeps operating daily, supporting the livelihoods of thousands of families, to ensure that milk is collected on farms and processed to feed millions of people at home and abroad. That needs to be recognised and protected,” he concluded.